Saturday, October 1, 2022


I spent a long time yesterday and today trying to think of the best way to commemorate what would have been Dave Arneson's 75th birthday. In the years since his death in 2009, I think it's fair to say that there's a much greater appreciation for the man and his contributions to both Dungeons & Dragons and the larger hobby of roleplaying that it inspired. At the same time, Arneson remains a much more elusive, even mysterious, a figure than, say, Gary Gygax, with whose name he will forever be linked. There are many reasons why this is the case, not least of which being that Arneson seems to have preferred a certain degree of invisibility, if not necessarily anonymity. He didn't seem to have been an attention seeker and so his role in the history of the hobby tends only to be celebrated on occasions such as this.

I'm as guilty of this as anyone, as evidenced by the fact that I struggled with finding something interesting or relevant to say in this post. In the end, I decided that the most important thing was simply to remember him and acknowledge that, whatever else he was, Dave Arneson was a man of singular imagination and creativity who hit upon a remarkable, indeed groundbreaking, idea that literally changed the world. I am constantly struck by how many of the concepts and terms of D&D have spread into the wider world, often used by people who've never played in a RPG. That's a level of influence of which few creators can boast and, while he's not solely responsible for that, he was the man who got the ball rolling with his Blackmoor campaign in the spring of 1971. 

All of us who enjoy roleplaying games of any sort owe Dave Arneson a huge debt. Happy birthday, Dave. May you be long remembered!


  1. Three cheers for Captain Harchar
    Hip-hip-Harlung! Hip-hip-Harlung! Hip-hip-Harlung!

    1. I wonder whether the exploits of Harchar mentioned in Flamesong came from actual game play.

  2. Happy Birthday, Mr. Arneson and thank you!

  3. As a 13yo in the UK in the mid 80s it was hard to know what contribution Dave Arneson had made, despite the fact that his name was there in my 2nd-hand Moldvay Basic book.

    Coming back to the hobby in 2017, I was surprised to find out who this guy actually was and the extensive contribution he made.

    A cheer for Dave Arneson!

  4. Indeed, Happy Birthday Dave! The opportunity to produce a guide to developing and running a Blackmoor style game has been lost to the world. The more I hear about Dave's game the more I feel that the relationship between Blackmoor and D&D is similar to that between D&D and solo gamebooks (eg Fighting Fantasy) or referee-less boardgames (eg Warhammer Quest) - all very good games but each a little more reductive and restrictive than its predecessor.

  5. Well put, & thanks for articulating the point. Here's to his memory!

  6. Mr. Arneson actually gave me some time once between activity slots at Gen Con. He was kind and walked with me and told me a bit of Blackmoor's Egg of Coot and of Captain Harchar. He seemed like a very nice and creative guy and I'm glad to have met him.